Category Archives: Buy this!

The future may or may not be here – William Gibson, Google Glass, and wearable computing (Fitbit One review)

William Gibson wearing Google Glass. I’m not sure if this specifically is the future, but something like this is coming to a future near you.


If you look at this year’s CES, wearable computing is possibly the biggest trend of 2013. I thought I’d try some of this recently, to see if it affected my behaviour, so I got myself a Fitbit One (Fitbit One UK/Euro link, Fitbit One US link). In essence, it’s a really fancy pedometer. That’s it. But it’s more – it’s linked to a website so I can see my stats online… But the website is linked back, so if I tell the website I’ve been cycling for twenty minutes, the Fitbit on my waistband updates my calories burnt for that day. That’s quite neat. But there’s also an app on my phone, where it’s easy to add in the food that I’m eating, or the water that I’m drinking (and the alcohol I’m drinking), and it only takes a moment.


This mean that every day, at any time, I can check to see how many calories I have burnt that day, and how many I have put into my body.


Does this, by itself, make me more fit? Of course not. But, when I look down at my waist and see that I have climbed 23 flights of stairs that day, does it make me want to climb a couple more (because 25 is a nice round number)? Yes, it absolutely does. I’ve been using the Fitbit for around a month and I’ve lost about 5lbs (1.5kg). I’ve not been able to shift weight for years, but this feels easy. That is actually incredible to me: a tiny chip on my waist and a bit of networking has made me become more conscious of my health and improved my life.


A few days ago I looked at my waist and saw I had climbed 37 flights of stairs… Well. That’s close to 50 isn’t it? I put a TED talk on my mobile phone, and walked up and down the stairs in my house while I listened to an inspirational talk about technology.


… But when I reached 50 for that day, the talk hadn’t finished, so I kept on walking. But then when the talk did finish, I wasn’t at a nice round number on the Fitbit One anymore, so I put on another talk…


And so, that day, I ended up walking up 100 flights of stairs. This is something I would never normally have done before I got the Fitbit, and the strange thing is that it feels so unconciously natural now. Of course I want to improve my stats: it’s like a real world RPG where I need to grind a little to get to the next level.


I called this post a Fitbit One review, it is (you should get one, it’s fantastic and it has helped me shift stubborn weight in a way that nothing else has, and without any big changes in my life), but it’s also about the future. We see William Gibson, the man who changed the language of the future when he wrote about cyberspace in his short stories and novels in the 1980s (Neuromancer UK, Neuromancer US), and we see him putting on Google Glass, and the strangeness of the present comes crashing home. When he started writing, the idea of a universally accessible data resource was pure fantasy, and how he can have it in his glasses.


Is William Gibson the future? I think he would be the first person to say that the future will now be shaped by people we have never heard of yet, but he is an icon of progress into this weird thing we call modern life.


Google is an icon too, and nothing feels more like the future than what they are doing to us. I’m fairly sure that this version of Google Glass will not be the same form that we are using in a decade, but it seems inevitable that it will be something like it, or like this, or possibly (hopefully) this, or like something we haven’t imagined yet.


When it comes it will feel so obvious and so natural that we will wonder why no-one ever did it before.


Seeing Gibson and Google together is a taste of things to come. Even that phrase ‘things to come’ sounds like the 1950s ray-guns-and-rocket-ships kind of science fiction. We don’t have the language for the current-future yet, but it is here already, quietly walking into our lives in small ways.

Has the LHC destroyed the world yet?

In case you’ve blanked news out for the day, the Large Hadron Collider, the LHC, was turned on today. It’s taken 30 years and some silly number of billions of pounds to make a really big ring so boffins can make streams of protons hit each other at light speed then see what happens. I did write in with a suggestion that they shine two torches at each other, but they never wrote back. I would even have supplied the batteries.

Anyway, apparently the amount of energy used is likely to create a Higgs Boson particle, which somehow gives all other particles mass (although exactly how or why I really don’t know). Then again, it might not. What this boils down to is that a load of guys underground in Europe are going to perhaps make a very small black hole. They insist that this is completely safe, which it probably is, but that doesn’t stop everyone else wondering if they are about to destroy the world, which brings me to the point of this..

In case you need to check if the LHC has destroyed the world, there is now a convenient website that is monitoring the situation and allows you to check:

It’s a good joke, but the real comedy will escape 99.9% of viewers. Check out the source code for the page:

[script type="text/javascript"]
if (!(typeof worldHasEnded == "undefined")) {
} else {

[script type="text/javascript"]
var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." :
document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost +
"' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E"));

Comedy gold for web techy people.

[I removed the email address from the code to try and prevent him getting spammed by bots that may scan this page, but it’s there in the page’s code if you want to find it yourself.]

Spook Country by William Gibson coming very soon!

Buy it in the US
Buy it in the UK

Video interview with Gibson about Spook Country.

As a person who spent seven years of their life studying the novels of William Gibson, I think it’s fair to say that I’m very excited about experiencing a new novel by him. Will I be able to switch off my academic brain for long enough to enjoy it as a ‘normal’ reader? I guess that asks whether normal readers like William Gibson novels. I hope I can.

I’m expecting that there will be some mysterious object, place, or moment around which the novel revolves. This thing will symbolise a new modality for humanity, something that speaks of loss, time, and desire. It will be representative of the excitement of the future, and the fear of losing everything that we are now to become something else. Dreams will replace cyberspace as an area in which mystical experiences occur and technology blends with personality. The bodies of the characters will always be central to their experience of the events – the way that textures look and feel will define their daily lives. Information will somehow be God, but not a god that you can talk to, or one that listens, just a god that is so utterly beyond you that you can only hope that you can predict what it might make happen next.

Will I be right? We’ll find out next month!

I miss writing my thesis.

PS3 available for pre-order on now!

Amazon in the UK have finally put the Playstation 3 console up for pre-order. If you want one at release then I suggest ordering one now – here’s the link)! If you are going to be getting one, please remember go to Amazon using a link from my site (such as that one just now, or from a search box on the other pages on my site) then 5% of what you spend goes to me to help with server costs and occasionally more interesting things like graphics tablets to draw more comics and animations with. Hurrah!

A very, very nice camera

Well, I don’t know who the person is, but a visitor to this site has been buying some very nice camera equipment in the last few weeks. Here’s the real cream of their picks:

Wooo… Purdy. Wouldn’t you just love to play with one of those? I’d just like to say a big thank you to whoever it is for using my associate links. The funding is greatly appreciated.

For new people, using the Amazon associate search boxes under the animations on my site means that I get around 5% of what you spend to put towards covering the costs of keeping this site running. It’s usually not a huge amount, but it adds up over a few months to a nice lump towards updating software, renewing hosting contracts, and paying for cup-a-soups so that I can have easy lunches while animating!

If you are going to be shopping on Amazon soon then please start your trip using a search box on my site! search box:



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Good Gifts

Now here’s a website that lives up to its name:

Good Gifts

Perhaps you won’t personally benefit from any of the things on there, but it’s a compilation of some very nice things to buy, ranging from decommisioned tanks that get turned into farm tools (£1000) to bikes to help midwives travel more easily in developing countries (£35). Or you can buy an elderly person a pair of slippers (£15) which might be a nice idea if you’ve lost someone this year and fancy doing something in their memory.

I think my personal favourite so far is paying £750 to get a book translated into braille:

The plot so far: the children’s section at the National Library for the Blind is under pressure. The huge demand from blind and partially sighted children and from blind and partially sighted adults to read to children outstrips supply. Please help: £25 buys a Braille book, £100 buys a book with giant print. And £725 actually provides transcription and master copying of a new title. And the name of the Good Giver (or receiver) is entered on the flyleaf. What a nice place to be.

How’s that for spreading Christmas cheer?

Unspeak: something a little bit academic?

Steven Poole, author of Trigger Happy (a very enjoyable book about computer games US link UK link), is working on a new book called ‘Unspeak’. The word is apparently a trademark, but with a bit of luck he won’t sue me…

Anyway, it’s all about ‘decoding the unspoken assumptions in public debate’. What this means is that he’s taking statements from public figures and interpreting them into plain English. This, a common satirical tool, has been done before but he does it very nicely on the fine line between humour and agression. Definitely worth a look if you like something a bit more thoughful on the web.

US link UK link

Here’s the official blurb about it:

Unspeak is language as a weapon. Every day, we are bombarded with those apparently simple words or phrases that actually conceal darker meanings. ‘Climate change’ is less threatening than ‘Global Warming’; we say ethnic cleansing when we mean mass murder. As we absorb and repeat Unspeak we are accepting the messages that politicians, businessmen and military agencies wish us to believe. Operation Iraqi Freedom did more than put a positive spin on the American war with Iraq; it gave the invasion such a likeable phrase that the American news networks quickly adopted it as their tagline for reporting on the war. By repackaging the language we use to describe international affairs or domestic politics, Unspeak tries to make controversial issues unspeakable and, therefore, unquestionable. In this astounding book, Steven Poole traces the globalizing wave of modern Unspeak from culture wars to the culture of war and reveals how everyday words are changing the way we think.

‘Sounds interesting. Although I don’t think ‘unspeak’ did turn up in Orwell’s 1984 it certainly wouldn’t have been out on place in there.

Micro$oft discover the secret of levitation!

Woah! have revealed that the XBox 360 controller is capable of levitation! Fantastic! I was probably going to be waiting for the $ony Playstation 3 to come out next year, but with the floating controller technology I think Micro$oft just might have converted me. Click here to witness the spookiness (before they remove it).

Don’t forget though, this marvellous aspect of the technology is only available in dear old Blighty, the colonial lot across the pond get a boring gravitationally-conformist controller. Click to witness the drab US version. Hurrah for Britain! And for bored copy writers!

(Found by Mwongozi.)

Christmas gift inspiration have put together a list of ‘most wished for’ items from their shop categories. I suspect that technically I’m not supposed to be linking to this because it was designed for people with associate accounts. Ah well, stuff that for a game of turkeys:

Christmas gift ideas from [EDIT – Oops! Looks like they’ve blocked me from doing that!]

They’ve also put together a more public list of things that are in a more reasonable price range:

Cheaper Christmas gift ideas from

I thought some people on here might find them handy for inspiration. I’ll let you know if deign to grace us Brits with something as useful.

UK ‘Lost’ box set – don’t buy it!

I’m a big fan of the series Lost. It might be hokum, but it’s very enjoyable hokum, and it’s got Dominic Monaghan pretending that he’s not a hobbit, aww bless.

Anyway, in the UK they’ve released a box set of the first twelve episodes in time for Christmas, here it is. We’re being charged, on average, around £25 for half the series. Fair enough, they want to make money at Christmas and the whole season hasn’t been shown over here yet so they don’t want to release it all.

Now, let’s compare that to the US price: US link. There you go: $36.98, which works out at £21.27 at today’s exchange rate. Four pounds cheaper… but what’s this? The US box set has the entire first series in it! Four pounds cheaper and with twice as much content. Call me crazy if you like, but it looks like the Brits are getting a bad deal here.

I’ve put this under the ‘buy this!’ category of my blog, but in this case I’m telling you not to buy something. Don’t buy the UK Lost box set. It’s a plain and simple rip off. I love the series, but I find the fact that we’re being charged twice as much money as people in the US for the same thing damn annoying so I’d encourage you to vote with your wallets.

British horror is looking good*

*although I’m not sure if ‘blood soaked’ counts as ‘looking good’, but you get the drift.

Last year we had the fantastic Shaun of the Dead UK link US link which managed to be scary, gruesome, and absolutely hilarious at the same time. I rate it as the funniest thing that British cinema has managed for a very long time, and for comedy moments probably rates higher than Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

Earlier this year I eventually got around to watching the 2002 British horror film 28 Days Later UK link US link, a film about a viral outbreak that turns people into psychopathic cannibal killers, resembling zombies that can sprint. It features some very effective moments, a fun plot that rips along, and a great performance by Christopher Eccleston, better known now as the recent Doctor Who.

This weekend I saw Creep UK link US link. I’ve seen quite a few horror films these days, but this really had some moments that made me wince. Really, I don’t quite know how to describe it, but it definitely hits the fragile spots. It features Franke Potente, best known for the superb German film Run Lola Run UK link US link as well as for being the girlfriend in The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy. She misses the last underground train and wakes up to find that the station is now locked. This would be pretty annoying if it weren’t for a complete slime from a party having got down there with her, and things get worse when a barely-human killer comes out to play. Yep, it sounds daft, but the director/writer has gone to great lengths to try and avoid the obvious twists. If you compare this to something like the US movie Jeepers Creepers you can see how great the difference is between the way that the material is handled. Anyway, if you fancy something a bit nasty and a bit scary then you could do a lot worse than give Creep a look.

British horror really does seem to be doing very well at the moment. I’m looking forward to what happens next!

On a side-note: I can imagine approaching Franke Potente with a script-

Mata: Hi Franke, I’m making a film about a young woman who is struggling to regain her memories of the past.
Franke: Uh huh.
M: She meets people who all seem familiar, but they all pretend not to recognise her…
F: I’m not sure.
M: So she has to sprint between them against the clock to
F: I’M IN!

She certainly does like running in films, that lady.

Microwaved food for microwaved passengers

They’ve been in science fiction books for many years, but now they are finally practical models. Microwave scanners are coming to an airport near you!

Using a 3mm microwave, the equipment builds up a three dimensional map of the space in front of it. Different objects return the beam at different fequencies, so you can tell what things are made of. This is a pretty cool gadget, although it does seem slightly pervy because cloth has almost no microwave return signal so look like they’re naked. Actually, that alone is probably enough to ensure that it goes on the market eventually, because any technology that can be applied to pornographic use has ever failed to sell. Now all they need to do is work out how to make the technology tie in to Star Trek and they won’t be able to keep them on the shelves.

Of course, anyone who’s read Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (UK link US link) knows how to sneak weapons past such things, which is a bit worrying really. ‘Great book though, if you like cyberpunk.

More about the scanner here.

New James Bond about to be confirmed

Tomorrow the new Bond will be announced as being Daniel Craig.

If, like me, your first reaction was ‘who?’ you might want to click here for the IMDB file and here for some pictures.

Perhaps it says a lot that the only thing I’ve seen him in is the first Tomb Raider movie, where he played Lara’s boyfriend-ish bloke Alex West (and you also get to see him naked in a shower). UK link US link

Trivia buffs might also like to know that the screenplay for the next Bond film, Casino Royale, has been written by Paul Haggis, who wrote the brilliant Canadian mountie comedy/drama Due South. UK link US link

Mr Snaffleburger Dolphin Products

There’s a new Mr Snaffleburger animation online:

Mr Snaffleburger Dolphin Products

It’s been a long time since I’ve made anything for Mr Sb, so my site really was due an update on everyone’s favourite corrupt corporation. Well… Some people’s favourite anyway… As always, please pass on the animation to anyone who you think might like it!

You’ll need Flash Player 8 to see the animation if you don’t already have it. You can download the latest Flash Player here. This is my first public play around with the new features. There are a whole load of new optical filters that you can mess around with. I’ve tried not to go too overboard with them, but it’s difficult to resist sometimes!

While I’m here, please remember that, if you’re buying something from or .com this Christmas (or any time), start your session using the search boxes at the bottom of the pages on my site and 5% of what you spend gets donated to my site. Amazon doesn’t tell you that you’re doing this, but it works and I’m very grateful for the support. search box:



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An interesting Firefox extension for programmers

When it comes to learning Flash, I’m a big fan of the Friends of ED books. My favourite is an oldie but a goodie, Flash MX Most Wanted Effects & Movies UK link US link, in particular the tutotial on (which is a lovely little website, with some great design feaures, in particular the use of sound is lovely).

Anyway, the publisher of the Friends of ED books, Apress, also make many other books about (less exciting ;)) computer things like PHP, Java, .NET, etc blah blah rhubarb. They’ve come up with a funky little Firefox extension that allows you to highlight a phrase on the web, right click and do an automatic search of their library for books related to that subject. I think it could be pretty handy when you’re looking to find info about programming and/or Flash. If you think so to then you can download it here:

Support my site while shopping

As you’ve no doubt seen, I have an associate’s account with and .com . I’d really appreciate it if, next time you go to buy something from them, you use one of the links in the ‘buy this’ section of my blog or use a search box (at the bottom of the animation pages and every page on my forums) to start your shopping session. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and I get around 5% of what you spend, helping me afford hosting, software, and other things that I need!

Thank you! search box:



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